Are You a Night Owl? This One Trick Can Help Advance Sleep Time by 2 HoursManage your life

June 11, 2019 13:05
Are You a Night Owl? This One Trick Can Help Advance Sleep Time by 2 Hours

Are you struggling to sleep at nights? A study suggests that it is possible to retrain yourself to go to sleep earlier in just three weeks, without any drugs or other drastic actions involved. Shifting to an earlier sleep schedule could keep your mind and body sharper in the mornings, as well as improve your mood.

For their experiment, researchers in the United Kingdom and Australia recruited a group of 22 healthy volunteers, all of whom described themselves as of late sleepers. On average, their nights ended at 2:30 a.m., and they would wake up at 10:15 a.m. Half of the volunteers for the three weeks were asked to try to sleep two to three hours earlier than usual, and also wake up two to three hours earlier. The remaining volunteers acted as a control group.

In order to improve their sleep hygiene, the scientists gave their volunteers some relatively easy-to-follow tips. They were to avoid light exposure at night and get as much sunlight as possible in the morning time. They were asked to eat breakfast right after waking up, eat lunch at the same time every day, and avoid dinner after 7 p.m. If they exercised, they were to do so in the morning instead of afternoon or evening. And they were to avoid caffeine after 3 p.m.

By the end of the study, published in Sleep Medicine, the experimental group had slept two hours earlier on the average, based on readings from the activity trackers they wore.

An analysis of hormone levels crucial to our sleep/wake cycle, namely cortisol and melatonin, also showed a change in the timing of their sleep cycle. They still got as much overall sleep as earlier, and there were some noticeable health benefits. It was easier for them to escape from the daze we often experience upon waking up - their average grip strength, a sign of physical fitness, and their reaction time on a cognitive test improved in the morning time. They also self-reported feeling less in a bad way, depressed, and sleepy.

“Our research findings highlight the ability of a simple non-pharmacological intervention to phase advance ‘night owls’, reduce negative elements of mental health and sleepiness, as well as manipulate peak performance times in the real world,” lead author Elise Facer-Childs, a sleep researcher at Monash University’s Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health in Australia, said in a release from the University of Birmingham in the UK.

“Establishing simple routines could help ‘night owls’ adjust their body clocks and improve their overall physical and mental health,” co-author Debra Skene from the University of Surrey said in the same release. “Insufficient levels of sleep and circadian misalignment can disrupt many bodily processes putting us at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.”

By Sowmya Sangam

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sleep  sleep medicine